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InDesign CC 2017 and Reading Order

New Here ,
Jan 16, 2019

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I've read several Adobe forum discussions about the problem with InDesign CC 2017 and the reading order that results in Acrobat DC. I have attempted to follow the instructions in those discussions, and I'm still having the problem. In Adobe InDesign CC 2017, I've organized the Articles panel, Tags panel, Structure panel, and Layers panel. None of these have fixed the reading order. Note that previous discussions about this issue mention that the Layers panel must be organized in the reverse order that you want the items read (bottom layers read first, top layers read last). I was unable to do this because it rearranged items on top of ones that I need to be visible. One discussion advised tagging all images as artifacts to get around this problem. I cannot do that, some images are artifacts, but others are not, and I would like a screen reader to read their alt tags.

I thought that laying out each individual article in my 40-page magazine as a single text thread with frame breaks would help, but this method did not affect the reading order at all.

Does anyone know how to fix this problem? Is there a way to organize the Layers panel in reverse without rearranging the items in layout? Any help is much appreciated!

Correct answer by Frans_van_der_Geest__ACP_ | Adobe Community Professional

Realize that in Accessible PDF we have a Tag order and also a Reading order, not the same indeed. The Article panel only sets the Tag order! The reading order is set by the Layer order! And what is on top is latest and at the bottom of the Layers is the first (like reading from bottom to top).

Professional software like Jaws take the Tag order to read aloud luckely enough 😉

However, the Reflow view in Acrobat uses the... Reading order set by Layers order in InDesign (yeah, I know...)

You can drag the order in Acrobat in the Order pane there, but you can end up with text or items getting obscured by other items like images or coloured frames etc. You can again fix that in the Page order items.

A bit confusing it sure is at first... 😉

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InDesign CC 2017 and Reading Order

New Here ,
Jan 16, 2019

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I've read several Adobe forum discussions about the problem with InDesign CC 2017 and the reading order that results in Acrobat DC. I have attempted to follow the instructions in those discussions, and I'm still having the problem. In Adobe InDesign CC 2017, I've organized the Articles panel, Tags panel, Structure panel, and Layers panel. None of these have fixed the reading order. Note that previous discussions about this issue mention that the Layers panel must be organized in the reverse order that you want the items read (bottom layers read first, top layers read last). I was unable to do this because it rearranged items on top of ones that I need to be visible. One discussion advised tagging all images as artifacts to get around this problem. I cannot do that, some images are artifacts, but others are not, and I would like a screen reader to read their alt tags.

I thought that laying out each individual article in my 40-page magazine as a single text thread with frame breaks would help, but this method did not affect the reading order at all.

Does anyone know how to fix this problem? Is there a way to organize the Layers panel in reverse without rearranging the items in layout? Any help is much appreciated!

Correct answer by Frans_van_der_Geest__ACP_ | Adobe Community Professional

Realize that in Accessible PDF we have a Tag order and also a Reading order, not the same indeed. The Article panel only sets the Tag order! The reading order is set by the Layer order! And what is on top is latest and at the bottom of the Layers is the first (like reading from bottom to top).

Professional software like Jaws take the Tag order to read aloud luckely enough 😉

However, the Reflow view in Acrobat uses the... Reading order set by Layers order in InDesign (yeah, I know...)

You can drag the order in Acrobat in the Order pane there, but you can end up with text or items getting obscured by other items like images or coloured frames etc. You can again fix that in the Page order items.

A bit confusing it sure is at first... 😉

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Engaged ,
Jan 16, 2019

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Have you looked at the Acrobat side of things?

In my experience, I'm structuring layers as you describe (trying to at least), manually selecting text then assigning appropriate tags (H1, H2, etc.) with the Tags Panel, editing paragraph styles to associate the Export Tagging tab for each style to the appropriate HTML tag and class, then even after all that setup, I use the Accessibility tools in Acrobat Pro to cleanup more. That becomes a whole other beast to deal with though.

Assuming you've set things up as thoroughly as you can in InDesign, you can use Acrobat Pro tools to manually sort read order (1, 2, 3, etc., for as many elements are on a page). You can also check the Tags Panel to check order. Those are some keywords to throw at YouTube. You might discover more down those paths.

Something that might be a factor is the tab order settings on the PDF export. After you've exported to PDF and opened in Acrobat, open your Page Thumbnails panel. Select ALL thumbnails then right-click for a context menu. Here, select Page Properties. In this new pop-up window choose "use Document Structure" and click OK. That will sort of set read order to follow the document's structure (assuming the document is structured correctly!). I'd suggest saving unique PDFs if you're going to start experimenting with the Tags Panel and Accessibility tools as some edits cannot be undone. That way, if you're saving at major landmark changes, you can at least go to the previous save should things break on you.

How are you using the PDF? I mean, with what screen reader? Is this for accessibility compliance? When you say it doesn't fix the read order, do you see a pattern in what it IS doing relative to how you have things set up?

Do you have links to any of the other discussions you've been following? That might help for more context.

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New Here ,
Jan 17, 2019

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Thanks for all the information. I have explored the Acrobat side of things. I just checked the document structure option in Acrobat, and it was actually already selected. I also checked the Tag order in Acrobat, and it's perfect. Yet when I view the reading order, it's all wrong.

I'm not sure which screen reader people will be using; I'm trying to make the PDF as 508 compliant as possible. Before I defined all the "panels" in InDesign (Articles, Tags, Structure, etc.), Acrobat was determining the reading order in the exact same incorrect way. It's as if nothing I do in InDesign is affecting how Acrobat determines the reading order.

Interestingly, when I look at the Articles panel in Acrobat (not InDesign), there is nothing, it's empty.

The structure looks correct in Acrobat.

And, yes, I'm selecting "Tagged PDF" on the PDF export options. And I've selected "Use Articles to determine reading order."

Let me track down the other discussions and I will post the links.

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Engaged ,
Jan 17, 2019

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Are you looking at the read order visually, or are you testing with a true text-to-speech reader like JAWS or NVDA? NVDA is free btw!

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New Here ,
Jan 17, 2019

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I'm looking at the read order visually, using Acrobat's Read Order panel. I don't have an audio screen reader (isn't there one in Acrobat that I can set up? Although wouldn't it just use the Read Order it's showing me?)

It's so strange too, because there is no logical order in the read order that Acrobat shows; one page shows the first column of text as 5, the second part of that column (which is divided by a frame break) as 2, the figure on the upper right of the page as 3, the figure caption as 4, and the second column of text on that page as 1. And I literally laid the article out as a continuous text thread with frame breaks (thinking that would help).

I can try getting NVDA. But how does that determine read order? Differently than Acrobat does?

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Engaged ,
Jan 17, 2019

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To be honest, I gave up using that read order approach a while back. Let me be clear here. I'm relatively new at 508 compliance work, but the job has put me through several trial-by-fire experiences where I've had to just get it done. With that said, please take my comments in that context.

I have learned to focus strictly on the tag panel in Acrobat PRO learning basic HTML tag types, how those tags are used to create page hierarchy through not only the tag type but also the tag ORDER list from the Accessibility tools in Acrobat PRO. That's why my first comment was so heavy on making sure that the InDesign layout is thorough to include Tag Exporting under each paragraph style you are using for your layout, selecting each header/para/artifact/etc. and tagging it appropriately via that tags panel in InDesign, and so on.

Assuming that InDesign is as properly set up as you can get it, once you export to PDF (create Tagged PDF in export window) then you can associate the PDF read order to the Tag structure of the document. That's opening the PDF thumbnails, selecting all thumbnails, right-clicking page properties and defining Use Document Structure---basically reading the TAG structure for read order. If correctly set up in InDesign, then your header text is nicely  wrapped in <h1> or whatever tags. Your paragraphs are wrapped in <p> tags, list, links, etc., are wrapped and ready for screen readers. No it's not perfect and yes you will need to manually correct things still, but that gets easier the more you do it. I'm including a few references at the end of this to get you going on that front.

I do remember struggling with similar issues a few years back. I can't remember what version we were using but it's likely that it was also CC 2017. We jumped through hoops trying to sort out things we did not yet understand. Everything online that we could find pointed to the Articles panel. Then we discovered quite accidentally that the layer order plays a major role in exported read order. Unfortunately, that forced us to reevaluate how we were using layers. Pure evil, so I totally get your frustrations!

I don't know/remember what limitations are in CC 2017. Perhaps that is a factor. BUT, as I understand it (limited), read order has been mostly based on the Tag structure in the PDF documents that I've been working. Correcting that has corrected read order.

Of course if you are strictly moving into 508 compliance, there are many more issues to come for you down that rabbit hole. While this is not part of your original post, I have a feeling you're getting to the point where you will need this. I highly recommend spending some time in the Standards & Accessibility (Tagged PDF) sub-forums. Download the free NVDA screen reader for testing, and begin looking into the free PDF Accessibility Checker (PAC 2 or newer PAC 3). I'm stilling using PAC 2 only because I'm more familiar, and there is a HUGE support page full of videos explaining the many errors the PAC app will  report. Here is an example of TaggedPDF.com and how it walks you through an error, why it exists, and how to resolve it. If you have an error in the PAC report, just use this search field to find it. 95% of my errors have been resolved here.

To your OP: Look deep into that Tag structure of your PDF. Test the document with a screen reader such as JAWS (crazy expensive IMHO) or NVDA (totally free). You may find you're just spinning your wheels assuming what is represented VISUALLY through your articles panel does not at all line up with how a screen reader actually reads your content.

*fingers crossed*

Sorry for the overloaded info dump.

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New Here ,
Jan 17, 2019

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I am so grateful for all the information you've shared, so don't apologize!

I've mapped all the paragraph styles to PDF tags, and I've selected the option to export tagging, and like I said, in Acrobat (and InDesign), the tag structure looks perfect.

Hopefully the NVDA screen reader will rely upon the tagging instead of Acrobat's read order. I will get the software and find out. Thanks for sharing the links, I will definitely be using them.

Once again, I really appreciate your help.

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New Here ,
Jan 17, 2019

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I'm on a Mac. From what I can tell, the NVDA screen reader is only available for Windows. Any other good, free screen readers that you know of? I may just have to look into getting JAWS.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jan 17, 2019

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Apologies for coming late into this discussion...been busy teaching classes on tagged PDF for accessibility.

In an attempt to clarify some of the issues, this will be a long, detailed post.

1) Which PDF reading order (RO) are you trying to control? The TAG RO or the architectural/construction RO?

I'm seeing most comments in this discussion relating to the architectural/construction RO and am wondering "why?"

Background:

The architectural/construction RO (sometimes called the "content" order) is the original PDF reading order and is based literally on which item was placed first into the original source document (such as a text frame in InDesign), which item was next, etc.  It is object based: that is, it doesn't look at individual letters but instead controls the text frames, graphic frames and other objects that are on an InDesign page.

You can see this construction in InDesign's layers panel where we control the stacking order of these objects, sending them to front or back.

In Acrobat, examine the PDF's Order Panel and you can see that the numbered items usually mimic how you designed the layout in InDesign. If the photo was the first item you placed on the page, then it will be numbered "1" (and is at the top of the stacking order in InDesign's Layers panel). If the text frame holding the heading was the last item you placed on the page, then it will be last in the Order panel.

The Acrobat Order Panel directly correlates to InDesign's Layers Panel/stacking order (but there are some things in InDesign that can alter this correlation).

On the other hand, Acrobat's Tag panel, <Tags>, and the Tag RO were introduced in Acrobat 5 in 2001. Unlike the architectural RO above that identifies each element such as an entire text frame, tags allow us to identify individual letters or blocks of text in the PDF, a much finer or "granular" way to label things. One text frame can have many individual types of text in it, each tagged with its respective tag or label. Plus, the tags have "semantic meaning." Some examples: the different heading levels of <H1>, <H2>, etc.  Or a bulleted list with 3 items in it.  Or a table with 5 columns and 10 rows. Or footnote 2 at the bottom of a page. Or the individual superscript "2" in the body text that's the reference/citation for footnote 2.

Ideally, you should focus on a good, logical reading order in the Tags panel (and correctly tagged, too), but the Order RO should match the Tag RO but it can stray from it, too.

Summary:

  • The Acrobat Order panel provides the RO for computer objects, like entire frames, series of linked frames, and other objects.
  • The Acrobat Tags panel provides the RO for individual pieces of text (like paragraphs, headings, tables, etc.) AND also gives these pieces of text a semantic label called a <Tag>.

Usage:

  • The architectural/construction order (Acrobat's Order Panel) is no longer used by assistive technologies and other processing agents (aka, reading devices and software), although some legacy tools still use it (some braille embossers, for example). Plus, some modern devices (like tablets and e-readers) are "influenced" by the PDF's architectural/construction order.
  • Since 2001, the Tag RO has become the dominant reading order for assistive technologies and is now mandated by the ISO PDF standards (ISO PDF 32000 and ISO PDF/UA 14289). Most other digital technologies use the Tag RO, too, and it "harmonizes" with WCAG, HTML, and EPUB technologies.

Before I continue...some questions for you:

  1. What are you trying to accomplish with the final PDF? For example, are you trying to make an accessible PDF that meets ISO PDF/UA-1 standards requirements.
  2. Why are you concerned about the architectural/construction order? What's your purpose for doing this?
—— Bevi Chagnon | Designer & Technologist for Accessible Design + Publishing | Book Author — Accessible InDesign — Accessible Word — Accessible PDF

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jan 17, 2019

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Right now, Rob Haverty (an accessibility expert at Adobe) is presenting the first of 6 sessions about PDF accessibility. Free, 1 hour sessions.

Sign up here Accessible PDF Webinar Series — the series is FREE!

Even if you missed them, the recording will be available from Adobe's website.

—— Bevi Chagnon | Designer & Technologist for Accessible Design + Publishing | Book Author — Accessible InDesign — Accessible Word — Accessible PDF

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jan 17, 2019

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Hmmm. Link doesn't seem to show us anything Bevi.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jan 17, 2019

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Hi Chad,

you have to be patient 🙂

Wait a few seconds and the options appear:

Acrobat-Accessibility-Webinars-1.PNG

Regards,
Uwe

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jan 17, 2019

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jessicam61308623  wrote

I'm on a Mac. From what I can tell, the NVDA screen reader is only available for Windows. Any other good, free screen readers that you know of? I may just have to look into getting JAWS.

Most assistive technologies are for Windows or mobile devices, not Mac. It's an Apple problem so complain to Cupertino!

Apple OS does come with a built-in screen reader called Voice Over, but it's very limited and not considered a fully featured screen reader.

At my studio (PubCom.com, design and accessibility experts), we do not allow our Mac users (which is 100% of us) to test on Macs. Everyone has either a separate Windows-based computer with NVDA and other assistive technologies, or uses a dual-boot Mac/Windows Apple computer so that they can run a "real" screen reader test on the Windows side of their Mac workstation.

You can run Parallels or VM Fusion on your Mac to do this, or if you're serious about accessible design, run Windows via Apple's BootCamp. Here's an old blog from our archives about how to do this: PubCom —Running Windows on a Mac   It's still valid, but a couple of minor items have changed since then.

—— Bevi Chagnon | Designer & Technologist for Accessible Design + Publishing | Book Author — Accessible InDesign — Accessible Word — Accessible PDF

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jan 17, 2019

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Have you ticked on the "Tagged PDF" optoin in the PDF export options?

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New Here ,
Jan 17, 2019

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Yes.

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jan 17, 2019

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I'm not entirely sure - but as suggested before - you may need to do this in acrobat?

Reading Order tool for PDFs (Adobe Acrobat Pro)

You may need to tag your items in InDesign

https://helpx.adobe.com/ie/indesign/using/structuring-pdfs.html

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jan 17, 2019

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Realize that in Accessible PDF we have a Tag order and also a Reading order, not the same indeed. The Article panel only sets the Tag order! The reading order is set by the Layer order! And what is on top is latest and at the bottom of the Layers is the first (like reading from bottom to top).

Professional software like Jaws take the Tag order to read aloud luckely enough 😉

However, the Reflow view in Acrobat uses the... Reading order set by Layers order in InDesign (yeah, I know...)

You can drag the order in Acrobat in the Order pane there, but you can end up with text or items getting obscured by other items like images or coloured frames etc. You can again fix that in the Page order items.

A bit confusing it sure is at first... 😉

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Community Beginner ,
Oct 02, 2019

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THANK YOU. This needs to be plastered somewhere in big letters. I nearly gave up on trying to set the order in Indesign and would have to carefully fix it in Acrobat. Now at least I know how to save myself from having to deal with the wonky read order panel in Acrobat.

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New Here ,
May 21, 2020

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OH MY GOD! you just saved me from i don't even know what... how is this not explained better, give that both indesign and acrobat are made by the same company?..

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Jan 17, 2019

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Rarely can you get perfect results right out of InDesign. Although you have complete control of the tag order for the most part, the Flow Order (Reading Order) is difficult because it relies on adjusting the stacking order of objects in InDesign to achieve the desired result. I try to get about 85% complete straight out of InDesign and then the remaining 15% I have to do in Acrobat (those are rough numbers by the way). Using the Order panel in Acrobat, you can fine tune the order to achieve correct Flow Order for your file.

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Engaged ,
Jan 17, 2019

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^ See? I'm learning something every 3 minutes here

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